Category Archives: From the Staff

From the Director ~ Thanksgiving 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

Because COVID is still very much with us, our 2021 Thanksgiving Day celebration is once again going to be a somewhat small affair.  We normally have a big crowd of 130-140 people – our residents, volunteers, Mission friends, New Life Program graduates, staff members, and family members of our staff and residents.  I have celebrated 32 Thanksgivings at the Mission, and our Thanksgiving celebration is always one of the highlights of my year.  When my four kids were still living at home, our Thanksgiving Day dinner was always at the Mission.  But this year, in order to protect our residents from COVID being brought unknowingly into the Mission by a visitor, we are once again going to limit our Thanksgiving Day celebration to just our 55 residents and a few staff.  As you might recall, we had a serious COVID outbreak last December that affected 7 residents and 6 staff members.  We thank the Lord that we have not had any additional outbreaks since January 2021.  We want to keep it that way.  So the most loving thing we can do is to be extra, extra careful this holiday season for the sake of our men and staff. 

But we are still going to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving Day feast fit for a King (the Lord Jesus Christ Himself :-)!).  Our Thanksgiving Day feast includes roasted turkey, homemade gravy, seven-cheese macaroni (which I make every year), creamy mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, savory stuffing with cranberries (which I also make from scratch every year), green beans almondine, buttered corn, rolls & butter, cranberry sauce, apple cider, and an amazing assortment of desserts – pies, cookies, brownies, cheesecake, and candy. 

For many of our residents, the Whosoever Gospel Mission family will be their family on Thanksgiving Day.  Together we will enjoy good food, warm fellowship, and a double portion of laughter as we gather around the tables.  Just recently, one of our former residents asked to come back into the New Life Program.  When he called us asking to come back, he shared that he didn’t realize until after he left that we really are like a family to him.  The Scriptures say that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11).  Likewise, we rejoice in calling our residents family.           

Thank you in advance for your kind and generous support.  Thank you for being part of the Whosoever Gospel Mission family.  The Mission family is like Jello in the old TV commercial – there is always room for more!

Thanking God for you,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director     

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4 Ways to Help

IMG_9364New Unwrapped Toys & Gifts

Each year, homeless dads living at the Mission give over a thousand gifts to hundreds of their kids & grandkids. For many men, lovingly selecting & wrapping each gift is a first step toward reconnecting with family. See it firsthand in this video or check out these photos.

Here’s how you can help:
Buy new, unwrapped toys, gifts, and stocking stuffers for ages 0-18 (especially gifts valued at $25 or less).

Deadline: Monday, December 13th
Call Heather (215 438 3094 x 103) by Dec. 6th to arrange for drop-off or pick-up.

IMG_8947Grocery & Supply Gift Cards

We already have several food drives lined up with local schools, churches and other groups throughout the Fall. But we could really use the following gift cards for perishable items and other urgent supply needs as they arise:

Walmart (also good to use at Sam’s Club)
Aldi
Giant
The Home Depot
Lowe’s Home Improvement
BJ’s Wholesale Club

Call Heather (215 438 3094 x 103) to arrange for drop-off, pick-up, or mail-in.

AmazonSmile & PayPal Giving

AmazonSmile: Donate at NO EXTRA COST to you! Make your online Amazon purchases through AmazonSmile & designate the Whosoever Gospel Mission as your charity of choice – you’ll pay the same price but a percentage of your purchase will be donated to us! To register, go to: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/23-1352579

PayPal Giving Fund: Search “Donate with Paypal Giving Fund” or go to PayPal Giving Fund’s website: paypal.com/us/fundraiser/hub and search “Whosoever Gospel Mission.” We get the FULL value of your donation – PayPal doesn’t charge us any fees.

IMG_9494Gift bags for 55 Homeless Men

Homeless men are typically isolated from friends & family, and often, they don’t receive any gifts at the holidays. For many of our men, the gifts they receive at the Mission are the only Christmas presents they’ll get.

Here’s how you can help: Make gift bags for the men. Fill them with things like a pocket calendar, umbrella, pens, socks, water bottle, snacks, tissues, lip balm, lotion, etc. (please don’t put soap in the same bag as food). Be creative!

Deadline: Wednesday, December 22nd
Call Heather (215 438 3094 x 103) by December 6th to arrange for drop-off or pick-up.

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From the Director ~ October 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

This past year has been a challenging roller coaster of a ride for the Mission with COVID still with us. But through it all, our doors stayed open to welcome with kindness and hope broken and hurting homeless men. We never closed. And through it all, you kept us going.

As we come to the holidays, we need your help. Click here for some of the ways you can make a big difference in the lives of our men. The fall also marks the beginning of workplace giving campaigns. The happy news is that through your workplace giving campaign, you can designate your gift to the Whosoever Gospel Mission.

  • The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey – donate to the Mission through United Way’s Donor Choice Option. Our Code Number is 1045.
  • The Combined Federal Campaign – federal employees can choose the Mission to receive their gift through the CFC. Our Code Number is 69784.
  • The City of Philadelphia Employees’ Combined Campaign – the Whosoever Gospel Mission is listed in the Contributor’s Guide under the category: Independent Charities Vetted by America’s Charities. Our Code Number is 30-0047.
  • United Campaigns in other states and regions – you can still designate your gift to the Whosoever Gospel Mission even if you live and work in another state or region of the country. Check your campaign booklet or ask your workplace United Way coordinator.
  • America’s Charities, Network for Good, the Benevity Community Impact Fund and the Blackbaud Giving Fund as well as others provide administrative services for several workplace giving campaigns throughout the country – check with your company’s workplace giving coordinator to find out how you can designate your gift to the Mission if your workplace uses one of these organizations to conduct their giving campaign.
  • Matching Gift Programs – many companies will match their employees’ gifts to a non-profit dollar for dollar. Check with your employer to see if they have a Matching Gift Program. You can double your gift to the Mission at no additional cost to you.

Your gifts are being used every day to give life and hope to our men, along with a smile, some good fun, and the powerful medicine of laughter. Thanks so much!

Pressing on with joy and hope,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ September 2021

Thank you for your prayers, your support and your friendship!

Dear Friend of the Mission,

Our current fiscal year, October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021, has at times been a wild roller coaster ride. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to profoundly impact the Mission in our daily operations (e.g., no volunteer youth groups, required mask wearing and social distancing, no outside churches conducting chapel services or providing special dinners, COVID testing for residents and staff, quarantine and isolation rooms for residents infected with COVID or waiting for their test results, etc.). The Mission itself suffered its own COVID outbreak in December with 7 residents and 6 staff members getting sick; our counselor Joe McAvinney and I were hospitalized, Joe for 8 days and me for 6 days. On a personal note, I had a lot of medical tests and procedures in the first part of 2021 and ended up having major open heart surgery on May 14th to replace my prematurely worn out artificial aortic valve (I am still recovering from the surgery and not yet back to my pre-surgery work schedule). And sadly, we got word that 6 of our former residents/graduates died this past year; two of them were former staff members.

But through all of this, God was faithful, and you, our friends, stood with us. On behalf of the Whosoever Gospel Mission, please accept my heartfelt thanks for your fervent prayers, your generous support, and your encouraging friendship. Our fiscal year ends on September 30, 2021. Thank you for helping us to weather a stormy year, and to also celebrate with us all of the good things that happened in and through the Mission in spite of these hardships. We were able to share God’s love in word and deed with the 45-55 homeless men who lived at the Mission on any given day. Our services to our residents were never interrupted. In fact, they even increased. One of our newest initiatives is to provide 50% of a man’s security deposit for an apartment when he is ready to graduate. Many of our men need to pay 2-3 months’ rent up-front as a security deposit to move into their own apartment. We feel compelled by the love of Jesus to help our men with this huge expense. Not all of our residents graduate, but those who do will be helped in a huge way. We are hoping to get foundation grants and donations from friends such as you to fund this new endeavor to secure decent housing for our graduates.

In closing, I want to give a shout out to all of our staff who kept the Mission going throughout all of these troubles and trials. Not one staff member ever complained or failed to show up for work. I want to give special recognition to Dr. Heather L. Rice, our Associate Executive Director, who has so aptly directed the Mission during my convalescence. Heather first started volunteering at the Mission as a freshman at Central High School in 1993. She earned her bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees while working at the Mission. She even turned down a full scholarship as a full-time student working on a PhD at Temple University in order to continue working at the Mission while going to school part time for her doctorate. Heather has faithfully served at the Mission for 28 years and is poised to be my successor as Executive Director when I retire from full-time ministry in less than two years. She has already even offered me a part-time job!

Thank you again for standing with us this past year. As we end our fiscal year on September 30th and begin our new fiscal year on October 1st, we need your continued prayers, your continued financial support, and your continued friendship. We will be sure to celebrate with you all of the good things that the Lord will accomplish in and through the Whosoever Gospel Mission.

With gratitude and joy,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director

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Job Opening – Thrift Store Associate

General Description

The Whosoever Gospel Mission is a Christian ministry that serves men experiencing homelessness through its 55-bed residential New Life Program in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.  The Mission operates two thrift shops (its flagship Germantown Thrift Store and our Lighthouse Thrift Shop in the Lawndale section of Philadelphia) to generate income for the New Life Program and to provide hands-on job readiness training and work experience for New Life Program participants.

The Thrift Shop Associate job opportunity is a part-time or full-time (40 hours per week) hourly ministry position in which the team member will work under the supervision of a store manager to carry out the following responsibilities at both our Germantown and Lawndale Thrift Store locations:

  • Greet customers and donors with a warm and welcoming attitude.
  • Operate a cash register while adhering to standard anti-theft policies and procedures as trained.
  • Receive and process donations of clothing, housewares and other miscellaneous merchandise, issue donation receipts, and thank donors for their support.
  • Stock, clean, and organize the sales floor as assigned by the manager.
  • Train and supervise men enrolled in the New Life Program who are assigned a workforce development training responsibility in the store.  At times you will be responsible to train and coach New Life Program participants on how to receive and process donations, how to restock the store, and how to assist our store customers.  You will also coach our program participants in basic job readiness skills like punctuality, collaborative teamwork, following instructions, etc.

Work ScheduleBoth part-time and full-time positions are available

Full-time

Each thrift shop associate works 5 days per week and is off every Sunday. Their other day off will generally be the same day each week, Monday to Friday (except every 6th week, when the associate works 5 days from Monday to Friday and is off on Saturday). This way, each thrift shop associate has one Saturday off every 6 weeks.

Hours: 8:45 AM to 4:45 PM with a 30 minute paid lunch (each day begins at 8:45 AM with a paid time of staff devotions together with all employees)

Part-time – one to three days per week

Thrift Shop Associate Requirements

  • Professional appearance and behavior
  • Ability to maintain a positive attitude and focus on customer satisfaction in a fast-paced environment
  • A desire and commitment to help New Life Program participants enjoy a good life and become all that God wants them to be 
  • The ability to read, write, and perform basic math
  • The ability to stand and walk for extended periods of time
  • A teachable, pleasant and flexible spirit

Additional Requirements for Working at the Whosoever Gospel Mission

Because the Whosoever Gospel Mission is an evangelical Christian organization, we require that each staff member enjoys a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and endeavors to live a committed Christian life.  In addition, we expect our staff members to regularly attend church.  Each staff member needs to be a good and godly example to our New Life Program participants and to our extended Mission family of supporters. 

Competitive Salary and Benefits

Benefits (if permanent full-time employee)

  • Health insurance after 60 days – the Mission pays the full premium
  • 2 weeks paid vacation time per year (1st week available after 6 months, then accrues biweekly)
  • 40 hours paid sick time per year
  • Pension plan – SIMPLE IRA (company matched up to 3% of your salary)
  • 9 paid holidays per year
  • Your birthday off as a personal holiday (you can take it on a day other than your birthday)
  • Christmas bonus (if we have the resources)
  • 20% Thrift Shop Discount (10% on specialty items)
  • Annual staff appreciation dinner
  • Free meals at the Mission, free surplus bread and other food that the Mission cannot use
  • Access to our computer lab

Work Locations (as assigned on a weekly basis)

Germantown Thrift Store
101 E. Chelten Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Lighthouse Thrift Shop
6515 Rising Sun Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19111


How to Apply

Please email your resume along with an email introducing yourself to the Whosoever Gospel Mission’s Executive Director Dr. Bob Emberger at remberger@whosoevergospel.org (please also copy Dr. Heather Rice at hrice@whosoevergospel.org on your email).

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From the Associate Director ~ July 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

Happy summer! Things are perking along nicely here at the Mission. We recently had the pleasure of celebrating with Aaron, our newest New Life Program graduate, as he moved out into his own apartment. Vince and William are looking to graduate and move out soon. Ten others are employed and working on their budgets while they save up and start their apartment hunt. There’s a growing excitement around the Mission as the job market seems to be opening up and more men are finding work.

We’re also pleased to report that after a year-long hiatus, we were able to once again have students from Drexel School of Medicine run a health screening clinic at the Mission. They saw about 24 of our residents on a Saturday morning in June. Each resident was able to review his medications, get his blood pressure and blood sugar checked, review his general health, and speak with an on-site physician about any concerns. We’re also excited to have Great Faith Vision scheduled to come back on July 31st to offer full eye exams (complete with free prescription eye glasses!) to any of our residents who need them.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes right now is that you’re hearing from me, and not from Executive Director Bob Emberger. Much has transpired since Bob last wrote you in May! He had a successful surgery on May 14th to remove his failing artificial aortic valve, replace it with a larger one, and do one coronary artery bypass. Recovery has been slow and not without its ups and downs. But all in all, Bob is doing well. I speak with him daily, often relaying messages of encouragement from friends such as yourself. We’re glad Bob is on the mend, but we miss him here at the Mission. Lord willing, he will be back on-site with us in August.

Even though we’re short staffed without Bob at the helm, we are grateful for the team the Lord has brought together here at the Mission. I’d like to introduce you to one such team member, our dorm supervisor, Mark Reeder. You can read about him here. The Lord blesses us through Mark every day. I trust you’ll be blessed, too. Thank you for your partnership in this great work. Together, by God’s grace, as Mark says, we can “carry on!”

Grateful to “carry on” with you!

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Associate Executive Director

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Executive Director Surgery Update

Thanks for praying, friends! Bob had a successful surgery on Friday, May 14th to replace his failing artificial aortic valve with a new larger one, and to give him one bypass.

Recovery is slow and painful, but is on track thus far. He is not able to receive visitors, but cards can be mailed to the Mission at PO Box 48308, Philadelphia, PA 19144.

Bob thanks everyone for their love and prayers!

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From the Director ~ May 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

You might recall that chest pain and trouble breathing is what brought me to Abington Hospital on Sunday, December 20, 2020. I was diagnosed with COVID and was admitted to the hospital for six days through Christmas until my discharge on December 26, 2020. During my hospitalization, my cardiologist told me that once I recovered from COVID, we needed to find out why I experienced chest pain. COVID was obviously stressing my heart, but my cardiologist was concerned about my underlying heart conditions. I have an 8 year old artificial aortic valve and coronary artery disease with a total of 7 stents. Since the end of January, I made two additional trips to the hospital with one five-day admission and a bunch of diagnostic tests. The results are all in. Yesterday, I saw a cardiothoracic surgeon at Abington Hospital. My artificial aortic valve is wearing out prematurely and will need to be replaced through open heart surgery. The less invasive TAVR procedure is unfortunately not an option for me. My surgeon is also going to try to enlarge the area of the aorta in which my artificial valve is placed in order to give me a larger aortic valve which would improve blood flow. In addition, since my stents will not last forever (two in fact are completely closed in one artery), my surgeon is going to try to do up to three coronary artery bypasses. He won’t know how many he can do until he actually sees my heart. I would certainly appreciate your prayers. This is a big surgery that is quite a bit more complicated and difficult than the open heart surgery I had 8 years ago to replace my aortic valve. But I am resting in the truths of Psalm 121 – the Lord is my help and sure hope.

As it stands now, my surgery will be on Wednesday, May 12th. I should be in the hospital for about 6 days and convalescing at home for the better part of 3 months. I want to thank you in advance for your prayers and your ongoing financial support of the Whosoever Gospel Mission. The Mission is in good hands with the Lord and with my dedicated staff. As our Associate Executive Director, Dr. Heather L. Rice, who has served in various capacities at the Mission since 1993, will be directing the Mission in my absence. In fact, Heather has been appointed as my successor when I retire from full-time ministry at the Mission in about two years (she has already offered me a part-time job writing grant applications to private foundations!). I have enjoyed watching Heather grow up serving the Lord at the Mission from a young 13 year old freshman in Central High School into an extremely gifted and highly qualified godly woman. By God’s grace, the Mission is in excellent shape with Heather at the helm

Resting in the love of Jesus,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ March 2021

Dear Friend of the Mission,

January and February of 2020 were good months at the Mission. We were rejoicing in all of the special activities and events our men were able to enjoy during the 2019 Christmas holidays. Our annual thank you letter in February included a “save the date” notice for our annual Night of Celebration which is usually held in April. And then COVID hit. I remember when we were required to close our two thrift stores as nonessential businesses. Our ministry to homeless men was viewed as an essential business, and we stayed open. But we had to lay off 6 staff members, and over the next several months we lost over $150,000.00 in thrift store income. With our 55-beds for homeless men, we worked hard to keep COVID-19 out of the Mission. We implemented all sorts of policies and procedures to keep our residents and staff as safe as possible. While many non-profits and businesses were able to keep their staff safe by closing down and working virtually from home, this was impossible for us to do as a long-term residential program for homeless men. Our staff members were and still are wonderful – none of them complained about risking their health and 100% of our staff showed up for work every day. By the very nature of our ministry, our staff and residents mixed and mingled together. We were careful and all wore masks and practiced social distancing, but the very nature of our ministry requires in-person interactions. By God’s grace, COVID-19 stayed out of the Mission for 8 months, and then in late November, COVID got into the Mission. We experienced our own mini-epidemic in December. Six residents and six staff came down with COVID. I ended up in the hospital for six days over Christmas. But through it all, the Mission stayed open, and our ministry to broken and hurting homeless men continued without interruption.

I do not have enough words to thank each of you for standing with us in 2020 and doing so much to support us and to keep us going. Some days we were “limping” along, but through your fervent prayers, your generous financial support, and your abundant donations of food, cleaning supplies, masks, and everything else we needed to fulfill our ministry, our doors are still open, we are still loving our men with the love of Christ, and broken and hurting people are tasting the goodness of the Lord. Thank you for all that you did for us in 2020!

Grateful and still pressing on,

Robert A. Emberger, D.Min.
Executive Director

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A COVID Christmas Update

Here at the Mission, we’ve had a different holiday season than we anticipated! Five residents and six staff members all contracted COVID in December. The Lord has very mercifully been teaching us that when we are weak, then He is strong! We are happy to report good news all around.

Executive director Bob Emberger was among the sick and was hospitalized for 6 days of treatment. He has responded well and is back to the Mission as he continues to build up his stamina.

The other staff who had been infected are all doing well and are either officially back to work or scheduled to be so within a week. All of our sick residents have recovered and as of today, we have no known COVID cases onsite! All tremendous answers to prayer!!!

Now, we can look to rescheduling our special Christmas lunch and give out the rest of the wonderful gifts everyone collected for our residents! Stay tuned for photos of our delayed Christmas festivities (safely distanced, of course!) in the next couple of weeks. We think we’ll leave our trees up in the chapel and lobby until then!

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